Saturday, October 31, 2015

Halloween Horror–Cancer Triumph!

John Allen Cancer
I talk a lot on my blog about our struggles with our two youngest sons who are both blessings that are on the autism spectrum. What many of my readers don’t know is that my oldest, John Allen was diagnosed with cancer when he was 15 months old. Retinoblastoma is a rare form of childhood eye cancer. Only 200-300 children are diagnosed with it a year in the United States. After several trips to various doctors he was official diagnosed 18 years ago today. The tumor that was in his left eye had detached the retina and was pushing it forward. The doctors said that he may have been blind in that eye for many months. Because the tumor was so large, it was recommended that they enucleate the eye in order to get all of the tumor. Thankfully they were able to do the surgery within a week and he has been cancer free with an artificial left eye since then. Many may look at the horrors of having a child diagnosed with cancer. It was scary at times. However, God allowed him to triumph over his cancer and He has blessed us with a wonderful, talented, intelligent son who loves the Lord. He is a fantastic helper who daily helps his mom and dad with many tasks. He loves his brothers and is a fantastic example to them. We love you, John Allen! We couldn’t have been blessed with a more wonderful oldest son.
And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Maestro Classics–The Nutcracker–A Schoolhouse Review Crew Review

Maestro Classics Review

A couple of years ago Sarah and I were blessed with a gift to see The Nutcracker Ballet. I had never been to see a live ballet before. It was magnificent! Not only the ballet was wonderful, but the music was as well. Having been a music major in college for a while and loving music, I had an appreciation for the orchestra that played the great score written by Tchaikovsky.

When I found out that I had the opportunity to review The Nutcracker by Maestro Classics I was excited. I really want to pass on the gift of music to my children. We have reviewed other great CD’s from Maestro Classics and they were wonderful so I expected none the less with The Nutcracker. I was not disappointed at all. It was fantastic like the rest. Let me tell you why Maestro Classics sets the standard for passing on the love of music to children – at least in my opinion.


Maestro Classics Review
Part of the mission statement for Maestro Classics says that its mission is to “To cultivate a love of music through education and joyful experiences.” I can truthfully say that their version of The Nutcracker did that with my children. When we reviewed some of the other CD’s from Maestro Classics, Joshua was young and Jacob was just a baby. They don’t remember sitting and listening to the others so this was really a new experience for them.
They loved the narration which was written and done by the fantastic Jim Weiss who has done other great storytelling recordings. Of course the story of The Nutcracker is the very enchanting story of Clara, her parent’s Christmas party, the mysterious Dosselmeyer and his anxiously waited for annual gifts, and, of course, Clara’s dream where she dreamed that her gift, The Nutcracker, and all of the other gifts and Christmas decorations come to life in a dream that includes battles, international dances and a visit from the Sugar Plum Fairy herself. Jim Weiss is an expert at telling stories and was superb at telling this one. His voice went right along with the music. He knew when to start, when to stop, and when to begin again. You knew exactly what was going on with the story at each moment in the music.
Of course, however, the main thing about The Nutcracker is the fantastic music by Tchaikovsky performed by The London Symphony Orchestra and conducted by Stephen Simon. As I mentioned above, I was a music major in college and love music, I have had the great privilege of playing the trumpet in many great bands and orchestras and can pick out a great orchestra. The London Symphony Orchestra is one of the best. It truly made the music and the story come to life. You could picture what was going on in “scene” of the music. Stephen Simon did an excellent job of arranging the music so that it included something from each part of Tchaikovsky’s ballet but was not too long for a child of even five years old to enjoy. It was beautiful and just the right length of about an hour.
You might think that just the fantastic narration and music would be enough, but that isn’t all! The Nutcracker also includes a wonderful 23 page booklet that adds to the experience. It briefly explains what is going on in each act and scene so that you can follow along with the narration and music. It also includes very interesting facts about the History of Ballet (Did you know that Louis VIII danced?); The Harp – an instrument used in many of Tchaikovsky’s ballets (I didn’t know a harp had pedals!); and has a fascinating biography of Tchaikovsky himself (Do you know what famous American concert hall Tchaikovsky conducted the inauguration for?). It also has puzzles that help the student to remember different things that they have learned.
But that’s not all! The Maestro Classics website has free downloads that you can use to enhance your study. Boy are we going to have fun with these! There are ten pages complete with websites that you can use to conduct a gigantic unit study based around The Nutcracker. All subjects are included from science to geography to history and on and on. Since The Nutcracker is based around Christmas, I’m going to use many of the resources to do a Christmas around the world unit study during the holidays! There are also more puzzles that you can download and even some sheet music.
I think that you can already tell that we are thrilled beyond thrilled with Maestro Classics and The Nutcracker. This is something we are going to refer to every year during the holidays. I am so glad that Maestro Classics is doing this. My children are gaining a whole new appreciation of music. To find out more about Maestro Classics and The Nutcracker just click on any of the highlighted links above. To find what other Schoolhouse Review Crew reviewers have to say about Maestro Classics, The Nutcracker and the other option we had, Peter and the Wolf, just click on the banner below. Happy Music Listening!
Maestro Classics Review
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Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Apologia’s Ultimate Homeschool Planner–A Schoolhouse Review Crew Review

Apologia Ultimate Homeschool Planner
I have to admit that the past few weeks have been a rough time for our family. With Sarah’s mom’s sickness and passing, there have been times when homeschooling has had to take a little bit of a back seat. Planning has often had to take even more of a back seat. So, I am going to be right up front in telling you that I have used The Ultimate Homeschool Planner from Apologia Educational Ministries, but not nearly to the fullest extent that I could have for the past six weeks or so. However, that being said, I HAVE used it some and already I am sold on The Ultimate Homeschool Planner.
After having used many forms of homeschool planning, both online and physical, I have come to the conclusion that I like physical, hard copy, planners better. It is what I began with when I first started homeschooling years ago so I am used to it, plus I just like something being in my face when I first get up in the morning. I don’t like to have to turn on the computer and search for it. If that has to happen, it often gets forgotten. When my hard copy notes and plans are sitting right on top of our homeschool books, more things tend to get done. It is also easier for me to spread things out on the kitchen table and write in a planner.
Apologia Ultimate Homeschool Planner
First off, let me tell you that this is much more than a regular old lesson plan book. The Ultimate Homeschool Planner is actually a PLANNER that helps you plan every detail of your homeschool year. It gives you step by step instructions on how to plan, in detail, your whole year and then break it down into monthly planning, weekly planning and then, to evaluate everything.
Let me also tell you, and this might be what I like about this planner the most, that The Ultimate Homeschool Planner centers on God and encourages you to put God as the head of your family and homeschool.
The first thing that the Debra Bell, the author, encourages us to do is to establish a yearly planning retreat. This retreat doesn’t have to be days, like you think of a retreat being, but she does encourage you to find a day where you can get away from it all for four to eight hours to just pray and plan your homeschool year. The main purpose is to write down a rough draft for the year, set academic and character goals for your children (and maybe even some character goals for yourself), and to prioritize these goals at a family level. Of course, all of this is with detailed instructions to make you think.
Let me tell you, this was a challenge for me. First of all, because of the length of time that we had to review this, I tried to put everything in quick mode and didn’t really set aside a day to plan the year. However, that wasn’t the challenging part. The challenge was that I had never thought about setting down character goals for my children. Don’t get me wrong, I have character goals, but I never really thought of putting down, in pencil and paper,  the ones that I wanted to work on with them for the year. My wife and I had some interesting discussions about this and I had some interesting discussions with the Lord. The academic goals need to be thought out as well, as they are more than just “finish the math curriculum”. They want it to be a little more specific and personal for each child.
After you have filled out the large two page yearly calendar with known vacations, holidays, busy times, times to do major projects or tasks (such as potty training) etc, and then filling out the goals and priorities for your children and family, it comes times to do some monthly planning. Again, you are to try and set aside time to do this but it is only a couple of hours. This is very similar to what you did for the year, but a little more specific since you probably know a little bit better what is coming up for the month. First you are to look over last month to see what worked and didn’t work. Then look over your family priority list and the coming month to fill in the spacious monthly planner. I really like the way that prayer is emphasized throughout the planning. We are to ask God what He wants in our lives and homeschool. There is more to this that is detailed in the family planner but I won’t take the time to explain it all here for if I did, it would take more than one blog post, and, I would be revealing everything in the planner which I don’t want to do. Let me just say that I love this planner!
Finally it comes down to the nitty gritty . . . the weekly planning. Once again you are to set aside a little time, about thirty minutes or so, for this to be completed. The main objectives here, and I love the first one, are to recount “God’s faithfulness, make a battle plan for the week ahead, and commit your plan to the Lord.”  This is where you set out your weekly lesson plans and schedule for the week. I really like sitting down on Monday to preview with each of my children the week ahead and pray. I also like reviewing, at the end of the week, with my child. It is good for feedback but is also a wonderful time to see God’s blessing and to commend your child for the good things that were accomplished this week.
Let me tell you again that with everything that happened during the time to review Apologia’s The Ultimate Homeschool Planner I have not got to use it to it’s fullest, but I found that when I did use the planner it was wonderful. I am very much looking forward to using it more. I am excited about what regular use of this planner, with God’s help, is going to do for our homeschool.
To find out more about The Ultimate Homeschool Planner and Apologia, just click on any one of the highlighted links above. To find what other members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew had to say about The Ultimate Homeschool Planner click on the banner below. Happy Homeschool Planning!
Exploring Creation Field Trip Journal Review
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Tuesday, October 27, 2015

IEW’s Resources Are Fantastic!–A Schoolhouse Review Crew Review!

IEW Phonetic Zoo

We have been blessed with being able to review writing curriculum and spelling curriculum from the Institute in Excellence in Writing (IEW) before and we have loved everything that we have reviewed. However, we have never reviewed any of their resource items. In fact, I never knew that IEW had any resource items until we had a chance to be chosen to review a resource pack of three individual items from this great company. Let me tell you right up front that we were totally blessed. The three items that we were able to use and review were Timeline of Classics, Teaching With Games Set, and A Word Right Now. I would buy any of these items without hesitation – they are that good! Let me talk a little bit about each one and how we have used them.

 IEW Phonetic Zoo
A Timeline of Classics – We are big history buffs around here. I attribute my love of history to my dad who loved taking us to historic places. More than once we enjoyed traveling to Gettysburg, and, when I was younger, we also went to Boston, Plymouth, Jamestown, Williamsburg, Mackinac Island and many other historic places. I, in turn, have tried to take my kids to historic places, and studying history has become a favorite of ours as well. One of the reasons we love it so much is because we have always used a literature approach to our history study. There have been years where I have bought a curriculum from one of the great historical literature based homeschool companies but they are often expensive to buy. I would always order the basic teacher manual and then search used book stores and libraries for the exact books that they require us to read. This year I decided to make my own curriculum using a lot of books that I have found over the years. Up until a few weeks ago I was using books and autobiographies that I had already bought and charting them on my computer. It has really been a hit and miss approach. Little did I know that I would be getting the recourse of all recourses to use now and in the future!
A Timeline of Classics is fantastic! It has good, family friendly books, films, recordings, biographies and more all in chronological form so that you can peruse what to use during any time period of world history that you might be studying. It’s all done in a spreadsheet form that includes the Description or Time Period, Title, Author and Level (Elementary, Middle School, High School). So far it lists almost 1400 titles in one huge 87 page spiral  bound volume divided into four sections – Ancients. The Middle Ages, Renaissance and Reformation, and The Modern World. Although it can’t include absolutely everything written about these major time periods (that would take at least 87 volumes let alone 87 pages) it does list the best of the best. I could peruse this book for hours if I had the time. Already I have researched books for our present year of study (American History being jointly studied by my two youngest), but I have begun to research what to do next year when we will be studying World History. I have also snuck a peak to see if the books that I presently am using are on the list. Many of them aren’t, but that’s okay. This book doesn’t claim that it is the complete list, but you could use just the resources found in this book to form your own history curriculum and your transcript would be one for others to envy!
 IEW Phonetic Zoo
Teaching With Games - I know I have mentioned the autism diagnosis of my two youngest sons a lot, but it really does create a challenge when it comes to teaching them. They are both very unique learners and everyday curriculum doesn’t always work with them. I have to constantly find creative ways to teach them and to help them retain what they have learned. Teaching With Games has been a gold mine of great ideas in that area.
We were blessed to receive the two DVD/ one CD set of a seminar given by the author, Lori Verstegen. The two DVDs have over two hours of information and ideas on creating your own games to be used to teach or review any subject you can think of. Each category of games – “No-Prep” Games. Matching Card Games, Question Games, Math Facts Games, and “Make As You Teach” Games - have at least three games listed that can be adapted to make dozens of different games that you can play at home with your children, in a co-op group, in a Sunday School or Bible Club, or in a regular classroom setting. I love the way the presenter involves all of the participants of the recorded seminar. As she explains all of the games she also has the attendees playing them.
The CD has all of the handouts from the seminar that includes instructions, rules and samples for all of the games talked about and demonstrated on the DVDs but we were blessed to be given the 117 page spiral bound book (that can be purchased separately) instead of having to print out all of the pages from the CD. While watching the above described videos I would sit with my book and follow along. The book has the same handouts and descriptions as the book the participants are using on the DVD’s so it was easy to keep up and learn.
We have loved trying out the games. Just yesterday we were playing one of the “No-Prep” Games and they begged to play it again. I can’t wait to play the Geography Game with Joshua since he loves Geography. Games are perfect for my two youngest because of their different ways of learning. Games are really perfect for any child, though, because as Ms. Verstegen says on the CD’s, studies show that students retain 90% of what they immediately use and apply. Playing games requires students to use and apply information that they have just learned. We are loving this resource.
IEW Phonetic Zoo
A Word Write Now - My two oldest love to write. Presently they are both writing books and, if I must say so myself, I think the books are very good and creative! When I first say A Word Write Now I knew that they would be able to use this resource. I know that they often have a hard time creatively describing something (just like I often do when I write) and this is going to really help them. It is wonderful. It’s a little bit thesaurus, a little bit dictionary . . . really it’s a little bit of a lot of things! Let me describe each of the four sections just a little bit for you.

Section A – Character Traits contains 23 traits that cover everything from Anger, to Curiosity, to Gossip, to Wisdom. For each trait there is a definition, a thought on that trait, excerpts from Classical Literature and words for that character trait that are Nouns, Adjectives, Adverbs, Verbs, and even what the author calls “Nouns Characters”. For example, a noun character for Cheerfulness might be a buddy, a nurse, or Pollyanna among many others. I really like how this section is set up and know it is going to be a valuable tool for everyone in our family, including me!

Section B – Description Words cover words that describe appearance, color, size, time, temperature, texture and shape. I love this section. Since each description word is different, there is no set way that this section is set up. For example, on the Words to Describe Size pages it lists adjectives for Large Amounts, Small or No Amounts, Large Sizes, Medium Sizes, Small Sizes, Open Spaces, Tight Spaces, and Length and Width, Height and Depth words. However, in the Words to Describe Color section it lists adjectives for all of the major colors and then lists adjectives for Attributes of Color such as Dull, Neutral and Strong, then lists nouns for Values of Color and Words for Light. I have never thought of some of these things. I know this will make a big difference in my writing let alone my children’s writing.

Section C – Words for Movement and the Senses has words for Feet, Hands, Hearing, Seeing, Smelling, Speaking and Thinking. Again, different things in this section require the pages to be set up differently. For example in the Words for Feet section there are Nouns Related to Feet. You can find Things to Put on Feet, Words for Human Feet, Words for Animal Feet. Places for Feet to Move, and How Feet Might Move. Then it contains Verbs for Moving Feet such as Faster Movements, Graceful Movements, Slower Movements, Awkward Movements and Other Foot Actions.

The Senses sections have a plethora of words as well. Words for Hearing has words for Animal Sounds, Object Sounds, Human Sounds, Loud Sounds, Quiet Sounds, Things that make Sounds, and even has words for Listening and Verb Phrases that deal with sound. This section truly has everything you can think of!

Section D – Appendix is not a section to be skimmed over and not looked at. It has some great information that will help you write well including Playing with Words, Transitions, Prepositions, Literary Genres and Definitions and Examples of Literary Devices.

As you can probably tell from my totally inadequate descriptions above, these three resources are keepers for us that we will use and turn to over and over again in our homeschooling and beyond. You can find out more about these products by clicking on the highlighted links above. IEW is a wonderful company and many other members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew reviewed other items than what I did. You can find what they had to say by clicking on the banner below. Happy Homeschooling!


IEW Review
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Friday, October 23, 2015

Need A Facial? Ask Me About Koru Naturals! A Schoolhouse Review Crew Review.

Koru Naturals Review
  Many, many moons ago Sarah and I had a friend who learned how to make soap. After years of practice she decided to open up her own business which is now thriving. I remember when she gave us our first bar of homemade soap. I didn’t realize it then, but that was the beginning of a whole new way of life for my family.
It didn’t happen overnight but gradually. When I first joined the Schoolhouse Review Crew several years ago, we were asked to review other natural items. It began with homemade laundry detergent and then natural cookbooks. Many of the folks on the crew were very much into healthy eating and natural living. Slowly we began embracing that type of lifestyle as well. We saw how it benefitted our autistic kids and, really, the whole family. When we had the opportunity to review some products from Koru Naturals we were very excited. As the name suggests, these products are made with natural ingredients and, these products are from New Zealand! We were chosen to review three item – their Skin Clear Cream, Manuka Honey Propolis Soap and Emu Oil and Blue Tansy Oil Cream. We have absolutely loved them all!
 Koru Naturals Review
  Skin Clear Cream - Okay, let me tell you my story with Koru Naturals Skin Clear Cream. When I heard about this product I wasn't so sure what it was all about. Was it a skin cream that a woman would use? Was it a cream to cleanse the face from blemishes and acne? What was it exactly? I thought that it would be perfect for either my wife to use or one of the kids who was suffering from teen blemishes. Well, I ended up using it myself and loved it!

When we first received the package and I opened up the Skin Clear Cream 4oz container of cream, it had thinned a little because of being in the mail and in the heat. Soon, however, it turned back into a creamy substance that smelled wonderful. The scent was fresh and very non-cosmetic. The main ingredients are Manuka Honey, Manuka Oil, Kawakawa and Harakeke (full ingredients can be found on the website). 

I have to be quite blunt here. About once or twice a year I suffer from cold soars that often appear on my chin. They usually go away rather quickly, but this year they were being stubborn. When I received the Skin Clear Cream I decided to try in on the sores. I was amazed when I first put it on. It comes with a plastic applicator, but, being a man, I'm not used to using those so I just used my fingers. Almost immediately I could feel my skin tighten. It really was cleansing my face. Within a couple days those stubborn sores were gone! I don't like using cosmeticy substances on my face, but, I don't mind using Koru Naturals, Skin Clear Cream. It is natural and it works. This is a keeper.

 Koru Naturals Review
  Manuka Honey Propolis Soap - When I first got the package from Koru Naturals, even before opening it, there was a fantastic smell. I found out after opening the box that it was the Manuka Honey Propolis Soap. The soap is wonderful as well! As the name implies, the main ingredients are Manuka Honey and Proplis - again a full listing can be found on the website, but, again, it is all natural. 

We are picky about what we use on our skin and especially the boy's skin because all three of them have skin issues of one sort or another. We have had no problems with this soap. It almost looks like two bars of soap put together. One side almost looks like a glycerine type soap and the other the creamy type soap that usual bars look like. While preparing for this review, I was talking to my wife about the soap and she said she loves it. She said that it makes her skin feel clean and fresh, more so than regular soap. I have to agree. As I stated, we have tried many kinds of home-made natural soaps and this ranks right up there with the best. This one is also a keeper for us!
 Koru Naturals Review
  Emu Oil and Blue Tansy Oil Cream - I was really anxious to try the Emu Oil and Blue Tansy Oil Cream out because, as you can see on picture above, it was supposed to be a high strength, deep penetrating and soothing formula. The claims are absolutely correct!

Being a little over middle aged with young children, I often experience many aches and pains. I hate to use over the counter creams but often do. Since this mixture of Emu Oil, Blue Tansy Oil, Aloe Vera, MSM and other natural ingredients (once again you can find a full listing on the website), is, well, all natural, I was not nervous about trying it at all. I love it and it works. The directions say to use it two or three times a day, but I use it as needed on my aching muscles and on my hands which, although not diagnosed, are suffering from a little arthritis. I am very pleased with how will this has helped and I am definitely going to continue using it! Once again, this is a keeper.

As you can probably tell, we are very pleased with Koru Naturals! If you have sensitive skin or have tried other products that don't seem to work for you, I would definitely recommend looking into their products. You can find information about the three products above by clicking on any one of the high lighted links above. These and other products from Koru Naturals were tried by other members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew and you can find what they had to say by clicking on the banner below. Happy Well Living!
Koru Naturals Review
Crew Disclaimer

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Sheldon’s New Primary Language Lessons–A Schoolhouse Review Crew Review

 Brookdale House Review
I have always been intrigued by Charlotte Mason. I found her method of homeschooling a little later in our homeschool journey – after we had already begun homeschooling. We have dabbled in it a bit, but I never thought that it would totally work with our two youngest. Since they are on the autism spectrum and one has small motor difficulty and the other has developmental delays I thought that the journaling and writing aspect would be difficult for them. When we were chosen to review Sheldon’s New Primary Language Lessons published by Brookdale House, I didn’t realize that it embraced the Charlotte Mason approach and wondered how we would do with it. I have used it with my middle child, Joshua, who has Aspergers Syndrome and small motor problems and have we have enjoyed it. I haven’t used it totally, exactly, how it is supposed to be used, but the adjustments have worked for us. First I’ll tell you all about this great language curriculum and how it is supposed to be used, then I’ll tell you how we used it and why it is working for us.
Sheldon’s New Primary Language Lessons really isn’t “new” at all. It is a revised version of a set of 96 lessons from a classic language book. Most of the lessons are the same as the original but a few have been updated or omitted. It is described as a “gentle” introduction to grammar for elementary students and is recommended for grades 3-6. Although Joshua has had some grammar lessons, it is something that he struggles with and I struggle with teaching, and I really liked the “gentle” sound of things. After receiving it I found that it really is gentle. Each lesson is not more than three or four pages long at the most and very often just one page. Also, most of the lessons can be done orally which really helped us a lot. The first half of the book deals primarily with punctuation and capitalization with a few other things thrown in such as contractions, days of the week and month, and the proper way to set up a letter and address an envelope just to name a few. Parts of speech are covered in the second half of the book. Although there is quite a bit of copy work and dictation, it is true that many if not most of the lessons can be done orally. As I mentioned before it is truly a gentle approach. For example, the first lesson is about statements. The student is shown a picture of a boy running and flying a kite with a dog running beside him and his brother and sister following along behind. Four statements are made about the picture and then some oral questions are asked in such a way that when the student answers he is making a statement. Then there is an explanation about what a statement is and the proper punctuation and capitalization for a statement. That’s it! It is all on one page. The next lesson was one page as well and was based on the same picture but covered question marks and how to write a questions sentence. Other lessons may be fill in the blank, passage or poem memorization, dictation or copy work. the copy work in Sheldon’s New Primary language Lessons are all in cursive. Anything the teacher (or parent in a homeschool case) has to say is in a text box and anything that is supposed to be read or done by the student is outside of the textbox so there is no teacher manual. The answers for the questions are found at the end of the book. It is all very simple and uncomplicated. I really love the lessons and the approach.
 Brookdale House Review
Joshua likes the approach as well as it is very uncomplicated and I have adjusted it so that he doesn’t have to do much writing. Thankfully much of the book can be done orally and even is encouraged to be done orally. Joshua, as I mentioned has a very difficult time writing, and although he needs the practice, it is best that he practices in a non-stressful situation. Dictation would be very stressful for him, so we usually skip that. Also, the copy work would not work for him because we have not started cursive with him yet.
This is a keeper for us. I can envision using this with Jacob as well when he is able to read and write just a bit better. As I have said many times, the gentle approach of this book really works with Joshua. We have found by experience that a lot of tedious questions and doing problems over and over again do not work for him. If you have a child that hates tedious work, I would really encourage you to look into Sheldon’s New Primary Language Lessons. We really give this two thumbs up! To find out more about this awesome book and about all of the curriculum that Brookdale House publishes click on any of the highlighted links above. Many of the other members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew reviewed other books published by Brookdale House including a really neat looking geography curriculum that I want to try with Joshua, and you can find what they have to say by clicking on the banner below. Happy Homeschooling!
 Brookdale House Review
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Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Are We Zealous in What We do for the Lord–Scripture Sunday


I know that it isn’t Sunday, but it is sometimes amazing to me what God points out to me during my Bible reading. Today this strange verse caught my attention in the book of Nehemiah.

After him Baruch the son of Zabbai zealously repaired another section, from the Angle to the doorway of the house of Eliashib the high priest. – Nehemiah 3:20

What a strange verse for God to point out to me. My first reaction was how neat it must be for Zabbai, who is now probably in Heaven, to have his name mentioned in the Bible as someone who did his work zealously for the Lord. It is such a small verse that I’m sure is overlooked by many people. Most folks, if they read that passage at all, more than likely just skim over those verses without remembering any of the names or any of the walls or gates of Jerusalem that were being repaired. However, there it is in print that Zabbai was zealous in his work in repairing his section of the wall – from the Angle to the doorway of the house of Eliashib.

I looked back to make sure, but as far as I could tell, no other person was said to have worked zealously. There names and places that they repaired were just mentioned and that’s it.

My second thought was that is how I would like to be remembered. I want to be remembered as someone who zealously works for the Lord. In order to do that I have to carefully examine my life. Am I zealous in everything I do? Am I doing things for myself so that I get the credit or am I doing things for God so that He gets the credit? Am I always trying to do my best with a good attitude – not just a good attitude but a zealous attitude?

I know that the Bible is complete. There will be nothing more added to it. However, in God’s eyes, I want to be seen as just as zealous in my work as Zabbai was. And, I want to be zealous for all of the right reasons.

Lord, Help me to be zealous for all of the right reasons. Help me to work zealously for you and not for myself. Help me not to do things for my glory but for yours. Help me to not be lazy in my work or to do my work half-heartedly, but zealously. You deserve all of the praise and honor, Lord. Whatever I do for you is just a pittance compared to what you have done for me. Thank you Lord. - Amen

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Living Waters–Intelligent Design in the Oceans of the Earth–A Schoolhouse Review Crew Review Review no 2
Quiz Time!
1. What sea creature can find a BB at the bottom of a pool while blindfolded?
2. What reptile uses magnetic fields to travel thousands of miles away from it’s birthplace and then, 25 years or so later, can find it’s way back to the exact place where it was hatched?
3. What fish uses a form of smell to find its way back to its spawning ground after traveling from the west coast half way to Japan?
4. What mammal “sings” without opening its mouth and actually recorded an album that was a hit?
I have to admit that if there is any subject that is week in our homeschool, it is science. Don’t get me wrong, I love science and so do my kids, but we just haven’t found anything that totally clicks before this year. We have been very fortunate to review a few science homeschool items that have really helped. Living Waters: Intelligent Design in the Oceans of the Earth sent to us by is one of those items. Living Waters is the third film in The Design of Life Series produced by Illustra Media.
Before I go into the content of this excellent video, let me tell you that the quality of this video is excellent, So many organizations are putting out videos that have worthwhile content, but aren’t necessarily well done. Living Waters is very well done. The cinematography is breathtaking, and the animations are first class. This is no haphazard low budget video. This is very well done.
Living Waters: Intelligent Design in the Oceans of the Earth sets out to dispute the theory of evolution by giving examples of four sea creatures that are so complex that there is no way that they can be the result of natural selection and random changes. Review no 2
It gives the example of dolphins and how they use a complex radar system to locate prey with a series of clicks. The adaptations that would need to take place for this to happen are phenomenal, Different things that are unrelated would have to adapt and then come together perfectly in the end to create this radar system. However, evolution can’t see into the future to know what was supposed to come together in the end. This radar system must have been by design. Living Waters: Intelligent Design in the Oceans of the Earth explains all of this.
It gives the example of a sea turtle and how, after it hatches, can travel thousands of miles but twenty five years later, in order to lay eggs, can still locate the exact place where it hatched by using a complex internal magnetic compass.
It gives the example of a pacific salmon where, after born, can make there way down stream and down river to the pacific ocean, travel over half way to Japan then circle back to find the exact tributary, river and stream where they were born by using a map of smells and other chemical signals.
Dozens of mammals, birds, insects and reptiles have similar migration systems as the sea turtle and pacific salmon. Living Waters: Intelligent Design in the Oceans of the Earth explains how it is virtually impossible for completely unrelated things to evolve in the same way.
It gives the example of the Hump Back Whale and how complex this enormous creature is yet evolution claims that this sea mammal must have evolved from a land creature. However, scientists have shown that just two of the many mutations that are needed to happen would take 100 million years to to complete, However, geological records show that the earth is only nine million years old. This is a puzzling thing to many evolution scientists. Living Waters: Intelligent Design in the Oceans of the Earth explains all of this as well.
Living Waters: Intelligent Design in the Oceans of the Earth is fascinating! I learned so much from this 68 minute DVD. The added beautiful cinematography and fantastic graphics are just an added bonus to all of the knowledge that you will gain. Although much of the information is advanced and probably wouldn’t be totally understood by even teens and adults, Living Waters is done in such a way that even a young child will gain something from it. It is truly a video that the entire family would enjoy. My kids each gave it two thumbs up!
To find out more about Living Waters: Intelligent Design in the Oceans of the Earth and Fishflix, the company that we received Living Waters: Intelligent Design in the Oceans of the Earth from and has many other family videos that you may purchase, just click on any of the highlighted links above. Many other members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew reviewed Living Waters: Intelligent Design in the Oceans of the Earth and other videos from and you can find out what they had to say by clicking on the banner below. Happy Homeschooling!
Quiz Answers!
I’m sure you figured out the answers to my little quiz at the beginning of this post but just in case you didn’t, here they are.
1. Dolphin
2. Sea Turtle
3. Pacific Salmon
4. Hump Back Whale Review No 2
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Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Sarah Plain and Tall From Progeny Press–Another “Wow” Schoolhouse Review Crew Review

Progeny Press Review
I don’t think that it is any secret that the Tinkel family is a reading family. Both Sarah and I were blessed with reading parents who read all of the time. It was just natural for us to love reading from an early age. We wanted to instill that love of reading in our children as well. John Allen caught that love at an early age thanks to some fantastic elementary school teachers that he had for the few years that he went to public school. Joshua and Jacob have learned to love reading as well, but it has been a little more difficult because of their learning challenges. Because I have of there learning challenges I was skeptical when it came to using reading unit studies. Although he is improving, Jacob is not up to level in his reading, and Joshua is so literal that I have to explain many things to him. John Allen, our oldest, has used literature unit studies before so I knew what they were like and wondered how effective they would be for the two youngest until recently. A few weeks ago we reviewed and loved a wonderful book and unit study. Although I used it as a read aloud and we did the questions and projects together, they soaked everything in. Still, when the opportunity to review the downloaded unit study for Sarah, Plain and Tall from Progeny Press I pondered whether another study would work or not. After all, different companies produce different types of material. Would the Progeny Press Study Guide for Sarah, Plain and Tall work for them as well as the other study guide did? Would they enjoy it as much? I shouldn't have worried at all! It worked just as well and the kids loved it just as well. Let me tell you all about it!

I chose the Progeny Press Sarah, Plain and Tall Study Guide that is downloadable and interactive for several reasons. I had read Sarah, Plain and Tall by Sarah MacLachlan and knew the story so that helped. It was also considered and upper elementary - first through sixth grade level unit study that was right in the middle of where the boys were and seemed to fit them both.

I really liked the background info that they provided for the book. It really helped me gain an understanding of the time period and the way of life of the people who lived on the plains during that time. I had read the book before, but if I hadn't, the summary would have been excellent for me as well. Both of these sections helped or would have helped me when going through this study with the kids.

Just as the background info helped me to get ready for the story, the "Before You Read Activities" helped my boys to get ready. We love geography so the suggested map work activities were a given for us. The pen pal suggestion was also really neat. We know a lot of people from around the world since we are missionaries, but I had never thought about a pen pal for the boys. We may have to try that one. Some of the other suggested activities were to do some history research, some discussion questions (which we also used and was very helpful) and a read aloud story that was set in the same time period.
Progeny Press Review
The "As You Read Activities" are really the heart of this unit study though. The Sarah, Plain and Tall Study Guide divided the book up in to three parts that covered three chapters each. I used the book as a read aloud for them and we would read three chapters and then do the questions. It was easy to do this in a couple of days because the chapters are short. Each group of questions included a vocabulary section, reading comprehension questions, "thinking about the story" questions, and "dig deeper" questions. There were also a couple of sections based on similes and metaphors, one that talked about comparisons and one that talked about the setting. The questions took on many forms such as multiple choice, fill in the blank, answer the question or age appropriate short essay questions. Since we were doing the unit study together, I would often ask one of my sons what they thought and then the other before we discussed it together. Then the next questions I would make the opposite son go first. I really liked the dig deeper section because Progeny Press, a Christian company, often included Christian parallels in this section. I recall one set of questions where I read the story of how Abraham found a wife for Isaac and then we compared how Sarah and Jacob met to how Isaac and Rebekah met. The questions were very appropriate for the level that my Joshua and Jacob were on, but really made them think. My kids loved the "As You Read Activities" and we got in to some very good discussions. At the end of this section there were some summary questions, a word search and a crossword puzzle.
The last section was the "After You Read Activities" section. It contained suggestions for activities to be done . . . well . . . after you read! We loved watching the movie "Sarah, Plain and Tall" and talking about how the book and movie were the same and different. There were many other activities were an excellent way to wrap up the study.
Finally, the appendix offered other books that could be read and movies that could be watched. We plan on getting the next book in the Sarah, Plain and Tall series and reading it.
We really loved this unit study. The boys loved the book and loved how the questions helped them to understand the book even more. I loved it because my boys learned so much. The PDF pages where you were able to type in your answers without actually printing out the pages also helped a lot. Of course, some pages, such as the crossword puzzle and word search have to be printed out but most I was able to do directly on the computer.
I am very impressed with the Sarah, Plain and Tall Study Guide and am definitely going to look into other Progeny Press unit studies for my two youngest. All three of us gave this two thumbs up and consider this one of rare "wow" review items from all of the things we have reviewed. To find out more about the Sarah, Plain and Tall Study Guide or about Progeny Press and all of the things they have to offer just click on any one of the highlighted links above. Many other members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew reviewed other unit studies from Progeny Press and you can find what they had to say by clicking on the banner below. Happy Reading!
Progeny Press Review
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Saturday, October 10, 2015

My Mother-in-law Passed Away Yesterday



She was a lot more than just my mother-in-law, she was like a second mother to me. She was also a fantastic mother to my wife and grandmother to my children. I am so glad that she is not suffering any more, but she will be greatly missed. We did a lot together as a family. She was my wife, Sarah’s, best friend. Life is going to be a lot different from here on. We’ll just have to get used to a new normal. It really hasn’t sunk in yet.

Here is her obituary. Thank you so much for all of your prayers for our family. Please pray for my kids. They were very close to Grandma and, as time goes by, it will be very difficult for them. We have two on the autism spectrum I am not sure how this will effect them as time goes by but it will be hard for all three of them.

We love you Mom but we know that you are kicking it up with Jesus right now!

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Jacob is Reading!–A Schoolhouse Review Crew Review


Reading Kingdom Review

So, why should the fact that Jacob is reading be such big news? Well, Jacob is our nine year old developmentally delayed child who is also on the autism spectrum. He is high functioning and is very intelligent, but as much as we have tried, he hasn’t mastered reading. Really not even the easiest words. Although he loves to be read to and has very high listening comprehension, and although he soaks up math and does very well, he can’t decode the letters and words that are required for reading. It has just never clicked. We have tried various methods and curriculum, but it just has not worked. What we think he has mastered one day he totally forgets the next day. It’s as if he had never seen it before.

To tell you the truth, I was a little skeptical of ASD Reading (Autism Spectrum Disorder Reading) from Reading Kingdom. Jacob had tried other online reading programs and, well, as you know, nothing had worked so far. However, I was willing to try anything at that point, so I was excited to see my name on the list of reviewers chosen. Almost immediately we go started and, to my great pleasure, Jacob absolutely loved it.

The first thing he did was take the beginning placement test. There is an earlier section that I could have started him at, but it was a section for children who aren’t familiar with a keyboard or a mouse. Jacob was very familiar with a mouse, and, although he didn’t know where all of the letters were on the keyboard, he was familiar with using one. The placement test found that Jacob was weak in sequencing and wasn’t able to quickly find the letters on the computer keyboard. Both of those things are very important in using this program and sequencing in particular is important in learning how to read. If a child can’t sequence the letters he is reading correctly, then he will more than likely not be able to correctly decode and read it. Hmmm…I wonder if sequencing could have been one of Jacob’s problems all along.

So, since sequencing and keyboarding were weak skills for Jacob he was placed directly in “Seeing Sequences” and “Letter Land”. In Seeing Sequences Jacob was taken through a series of exercises where he had to look at a group of letters or a word and then remember the order to recreate that group of letters or word. If he was incorrect or if it took too long for him to remember, he was gently guided to doing it correctly. If he was correct, then he was rewarded with animated figures bobbing there heads up and down or waving at him.

I think one of the things that Jacob really likes about this program is the animation. It is very well done. Letters might be flown onto the screen by a helicopter or beamed down from a spaceship. You just never know what is going to happen, it is all fun. However, it is not overwhelming. It is the right balance of fun and learning and Jacob was taken by it right from the start.

Letter Land has the same high quality graphics and rewards, but in this section you are introduced to the letters in each row of the keyboard. Jacob would be shown letters and then asked to find them on the keyboard. I was amazed. After two or three weeks of practice Jacob knew where all of the letters were on the keyboard almost immediately with no help at all!


There’s the problem, though. These two sections took two or three weeks. Don’t get me wrong. A child is encouraged to work with ASD Reading four or five times a week and, trust me, it never was boring for Jacob and I could see how well he was progressing. It was time truly well spent. So, what was the problem? Well, let me tell you a little secret about the Schoolhouse Review Crew. When we are chosen for a review, we are given five or six weeks to review that product from the time we receive it to the time we have to write the review. Well, I thought to myself, if it takes Jacob two or three weeks just to learn sequencing and where to find the letters on the keyboard, that just leaves us two or three weeks to see if the learning how to read section of ASD Reading really works for Jacob before I have to write the review.

However, we kept on going. By this time, though, Jacob liked the program so much that he was doing two or three lessons a day so he moved a bit quicker. So, we began with Level One. There are five levels in ASD Reading and in each level you learn enough words to be able to read six books. The ASD Reading website says that each level should take 10-15 weeks to complete, but when you break it down, that’s about two weeks per book. In Level One you learn 36 new words, however, you don’t only learn the words, you learn many variants of that word as well. For example, a child might learn the word “park”, but then he will also learn the variants “parks”, “parking” and “parked”. So in reality Jacob will be learning a lot more than 36 words in Level One.

Each lesson begins with showing Jacob a new word and making sure he knows what that word means. For example, one of the new words was boy. The computer showed the word boy while a voice pronounced the word. Jacob was then shown three or four pictures and he would have to pick the picture of the boy. Farther in the lesson he may have to type the word boy or he would be shown the word “boy” with some letters missing and he would have to fill in the missing letters. Then, they may add an “s” to the word to introduce a new variant or perhaps even a whole new word and he would have to go through a similar process again.

As I mentioned before, he has begun doing two or three lessons a day, so he whizzed through the words for book one and, to my amazement, read the first book aloud to me with hardly a mistake! He had never done that before! I knew that we had found the answer to his reading problems. ASD Reading!

Jacob likes the program because of the clever and well done animation and because of the reward factor (you also earn points and, after you have accumulated so many points you are rewarded with a page in your passport). I love ASD Reading for other reasons, though. Of course I like it because it has been our answer to Jacob learning how to read, but it is the process that they use that I really like. You see, ASD Reading has a built in program that monitors how well a child is doing and if a child needs more help in a particular area. If a child is catching on quickly then the program might move him along a little faster. If a child need help in something then the built in program might review a section automatically or give him more help in a specific area. I also like the fact that I get periodic progress reports and can go to the ASD Reading program myself to see how he is doing. Everything is done online using secure passwords. I think I love it as much as Jacob!

Something that is very unique about this program is that it was developed specifically for autism spectrum children. And, that is for all autism spectrum children even if they are non-verbal. I am a believer in this program and am very impressed with it. If you have a child anywhere on the spectrum I would encourage you to check it out.

This is one of those “WOW” reviews that I have talked about recently. I only give a review a “WOW” if it is extra special and made an impact on my children. ASD Reading by Reading Kingdom fits that requirement. It is definitely a “WOW” review. To find out more about ASD Reading or about Reading Kingdom just click on any of the highlighted links above. To find out what some of the other Schoolhouse Review Crew members had to say about ASD Reading and about another program by Reading Kingdom called Reading Kingdom Online, just click on the banner below. Happy Reading!

Reading Kingdom Review
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